Vintage News

4/18/2013 - DPS Officer On Mend After Copperstate Crash; Two Speeders Jailed, Others Get Awards

Phoenix, AZ - After 23 years without any accidents or incidents, the Bell Lexus Copperstate 1000 rally was interrupted with what could have been a tragedy when one of its motorcycle escort officers was struck by a civilian (non-rally) automobile last Wednesday in Sedona, Arizona on the last day of the rally. Arizona Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) officer Henry Vega III was air-evacuated by helicopter to a Phoenix hospital for treatment of a skull fracture, concussion and broken facial bones. Thankfully, after surgery and a stint in the intensive-care unit, Vega was reported to be recuperating at home as of Monday.

The officer was on his motorcycle around 9 a.m. when he collided with a woman driving a Honda at the intersection of Highway 89 and Deer Trail Rd. in Sedona, shortly after leaving the headquarters Enchantment Resort. Horrified Copperstaters who were following stopped to render aid and call 911 for emergency medical assistance.

Vega was one of eight off-duty uniformed DPS motorcycle officers handling traffic control and safety on the annual tour for some 90-plus valuable vintage cars, some worth millions. The officers are paid by the Men's Arts Council (MAC) of the Phoenix Art Museum, which organizes the annual rally for charity. Vega's emergency care and medical bills will be paid for entirely by the MAC's insurance policy, according to rally co-chair Dan Diethelm. He told VM that Vega was wearing a DPS-issued open-faced helmet that did not completely protect him in this type of crash. As a result, Diethelm said the non-profit 10-90 Copperstate Foundation, which provides emergency benefits and tuition assistance to families of officers killed in the line of duty, will now offer any DPS officer in the state an upgrade to a full-face helmet as a result of the CS1K crash.

One hour prior to Vega's crash, another DPS officer's motorcycle went down in Sedona when he hit debris or gravel in the roadway. He was scraped up but refused medical attention, according to Diethelm.

However, Vega's accident wasn't the only time blue lights flashed on the Copperstate. While these types of vintage car rallies are designed to offer a spirited but sane drive through the scenic byways and highways, fast driving is tolerated to a point as long as it's within the limits set by the pacing motorcycle officers. DPS's page in the Copperstate route book lists four simple "Rules of the Road":
1) In small towns, obey posted speed limits
2) No passing zones: don't cross double yellow lines
3) Speeding? Bad news, keep the speeds down
4) State & National Parks: obey posted speed limits.

Simple rules, except perhaps for two miscreants in a big-block Shelby Cobra and a Ford GT40, who on Tuesday morning were spotted speeding on eastbound I-40 near Flagstaff by a DPS patrol car heading the other way. According to DPS spokesman Sgt. Gary Phelps, the officer couldn't get turned around in time to pursue, but took note of the large number on the Copperstate "meatball" on the side of the GT40 and passed the information along to other officers in the area.

Following lunch at the Valle Airport Planes of Fame Museum, the Cobra and GT40 drivers were "freelancing" without DPS motorcycle escort, on southbound Route 89, a two-laner for tourists heading to and from the Grand Canyon. The pair were stopped at 2:45 p.m. by on-duty DPS officers who clocked them at 102mph, according to Phelps. They were cuffed and booked into the Coconino County Detention Facility for criminal speeding, a misdemeanor, while their cars were towed. Phelps added that Copperstate officials and their DPS supervisor Sgt. Shane McFarland were notified, and both supported the arrests and suspended the pair from further participation in the rally. Rallyers confirmed to VM that the pair did not return, and a few expressed anger and annoyance that the speeders might jeopardize the popular event. Event co-chair Diethelm noted, "We don't tolerate speeders...that behavior is unacceptable, will not be acceptable, and those who engage in it will not be invited back."

While the high-speed duo were awarded with a court date and/or fine, the remaining Copperstaters got their just rewards and time off for good behavior with the finale banquet at the Westin Kierland resort hotel in Scottsdale for the event's annual awards. Herewith are the winners:

AAA Condolence Award: John & Peg Leshinski, 1951 Allard K-2
Fur Piece Award: Alan Culverhouse, U.K., 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB 6 Alloy
Participant's Choice: Scott & Jodi Rosen, 1955 Aston Martin DB3S
DPS Motors Award: Michael & Kathleen Christodolou, 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Director's Award: Colin Comer, 1958 Lister Jaguar "Knobbly"
Immaculate Presentation: John & Sonia Breslow, 1961 Chevrolet Corvette by Vignale
MAC Award: DPS Sgt. Shane McFarland
Jeopardy Award: Stuart Shoen & Megan Kohrs, 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
Good Samaritan Award: John Standifer & Jason Henderson (crew)
The Daniel Rowen Memorial Award: Jennifer Ngo, 1969 Lotus Super Seven
Louis Laflin Award: Gordon Apker, 1962 Porsche 356

Next year's 24th annual Bell Lexus Copperstate 1000 is scheduled for April 5-9, 2014 and open for entry to vehicles from model year 1973 or earlier. For more information, go to:

Photo: T.G. and Will Mittler's 1955 Jaguar D-Type munches a tumbleweed snack during a fueling stop on old Route 66 in
Hackberry, AZ on the 2nd day of the Copperstate 1000 rally (courtesy Copperstate 1000)

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